Linguine with Plaice

I’ve cooked this dish before with prawns and I’m pretty sure you could whip it up with many different types of fish suitable to be served with pasta. I got the idea of using white fish from a restaurant called Al Tiguri that I visited while on holiday in the town of Alghero in Sardinia. One of their signature pasta dishes is a very distinctive black and white linguine where one side of the pasta is black from the inclusion of squid ink and the other is bright white, presumably made only with egg whites. They serve it with shreds of skate, there’s no chilli or parsley in their dish, just really good extra virgin olive oil, lemon and basil. I went with plaice on this occasions as there was a solitary fillet reduced to clear at the supermarket and looking for a budget conscious meal this fitted the bill nicely.

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Serves 2 main course (4 starter portions).

Ingredients

  • 1 fillet of plaice (or any white fish of your choose, skate works very well).
  • 200g dried linguine pasta
  • 1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped.
  • 1 generous pinch of chilli flakes (optional).
  • 1 whole clove of garlic, skinned.
  • 1 tomato, skinned, seeded and diced.
  • Juice and zest of ½ lemon.
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.

Method

Poach the fish fillet in salted water. You can add some stock aromatics if you have them to hand. I added the stalks from the parsley, a few slices of onion, peppercorns, a pinch of thyme and some lemon juice, but don’t worry if you don’t have them.

Bring the water up to the boil, place the fish in the water and then turn the heat off and leave covered.

After 5 minutes remove the fish fillets, the skin should pull away easily, flake the fish up and place to one side.

Strain the fish poaching liquid into your pasta cooking pan and add enough water and salt to cook the pasta. Add the linguine, and cook as per the packet instructions minus two minutes. You want the pasta to be a little undercooked as we’re going to finish off cooking the pasta in the sauce.

While the linguine is simmering away, fry the chilli and whole garlic in plenty of extra virgin olive oil over a medium heat. Once the garlic has taken on a little colour, remove and discard.

When the linguine is ready, pull it out the water with tongs and put it straight into the pan with chilli and oil and add a generous ladle of the pasta cooking water. Personally, I’m a big advocate for finishing pasta dishes off the proper Italian way of tossing the pasta through the sauce. This is not simply a case of mixing things up, it’s the final, crucial part of the cookery.

Add the parsley (saving some to garnish the dish), the chopped tomato, the lemon juice and zest, and the reserved white fish. Keep stirring or tossing with the pan over the heat – the cooking liquid should start to form a nice coating sauce allowing all the ingredients to adhere to the pasta.

The reason for undercooking the pasta is to give yourself some time to allow this process to happen. Those final few minutes give you the time for the flavours of the sauce to get into the pasta and letting some of the starches in the pasta water to thicken the sauce. Plenty of time to add any final flourishes, like a drizzle of olive oil and to check the seasoning is to your liking.

I aim to get the pasta nice and al dente and the sauce just thick enough that I hear a nice slop sound when I toss the pasta in the pan. If it’s too thick I add some more of the pasta cooking water to loosen it. Once you switch the heat out, it’ll thicken a touch more so aim to make it just a little bit more saucy than you want it.

Serve into warmed pasta bowls, topped with the last of the chopped parsley, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I never use parmesan on my fish pasta dishes, so adding a generous teaspoonful of lumpfish caviar makes a nice replacement, but is by no means necessary. Serve with some hunks of bread to mop up the sauce at the end.

One day I have promised myself to recreate the Al Tiguri dish, with some homemade black and white linguine.

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